Sanctuary for Survivors

22nd April 2021

These services are a lifeline to those in our community for whom ‘home’ is the most dangerous place they can be.”

 

Domestic abuse charity, Your Sanctuary, has been providing lifesaving support to survivors of domestic abuse since 1977. Their dedicated team of staff and volunteers, based in Woking, offer protection, support and empowerment services to survivors and their children, and work towards breaking the cycle of domestic violence.

In Surrey, we know that there are an estimated 35,400 victims of abuse, with 3,300 children visible to services as living in homes where there is domestic abuse.

We also know, that on average 28 domestic abuse crimes are reported to Surrey Police everyday – yet many cases remain unrecorded due to a large number of victims not reporting these crimes.

Your Sanctuary provide a free and confidential support helpline service, and on-line chat service for survivors who find speaking on the phone challenging. This helpline is the only helpline that is available right across Surrey, and is the crucial first step for many, to explore what is happening to them.

On average, the helpline receives 400 calls per month for this vital service – which has dramatically increased since the pandemic began.

Your Sanctuary have found that over 80% of their callers say:

  • They understand more about their rights and options
  • They feel more confident to access other types of support
  • They understand more about domestic abuse and abusive behaviours

Coronavirus has raised public consciousness of the extreme fear and harm that survivors, both adults and children, are suffering all across the country.

 

Together with the Community Foundation

The Community Foundation for Surrey is a long-term supporter of Your Sanctuary, having awarded 19 grants to the local charity over the past 11 years.

Most recently, we have been delighted to support them at a time where it has never been more critical. Grants from our Surrey Coronavirus Response Fund have enabled the continuation of their online chat and helpline provision, as the surge in demand for these services amidst the pandemic, has stretched their team, and resources to the limit.

“These grants have enabled us to continue running our vital domestic abuse Surrey-wide helpline and online chat service. These services are often the only way survivors who are in lockdown with their abuser can reach out for support and information – they are a lifeline to those in our community for whom ‘home’ is the most dangerous place they can be.”

Fiamma Pather – Chief Executive, Your Sanctuary

Find out more about the Community Foundation’s work to address domestic abuse in Surrey here.

 

A life without fear

Across all of Your Sanctuary’s services, the charity works from a needs-led and strengths-based perspective to ensure that each client is treated as an individual and is provided with the most appropriate trauma-led emotional and practical support. Through building the self-esteem and confidence of each of their service users, they empower survivors to continue to live their lives free from fear and abuse.

To find out more about services provided by Your Sanctuary, please visit their website.

 

Building relationships and growing with our young people

6th August 2020

“It’s through these relationships that real, tangible change can happen.”

 

Dan Beedell joined east to west 10 years ago after discovering them at a local church. Originally a part time Relational Support Worker, Dan is now part of the senior leadership team and an enthusiastic champion of the charity and its fundraising.

“The reason why east to west are so effective at what they do is that we take the time to build relationships with those we support. Because we know them, we know what is happening, and we have a better understanding as to why. It’s through these relationships that real, tangible change can happen.”

east to west is a Surrey based charity supporting over 1,000 local children, young people and their families. The children and young people who work with east to west often struggle with self-harming, bullying, broken family relationships, abuse and homelessness. Through one to one and group sessions east to west listen and care for each young person they support. Their help often goes beyond listening; accompanying children to doctor’s appointments or food banks, or connecting them with a social worker or specialist counsellor.

In the wake of the pandemic, these needs have intensified. More and more we are seeing how the effects of lockdown have taken a greater toll on the mental health and wellbeing of our young people. Dan says, “in essence schools closed overnight, yet those we work with didn’t suddenly disappear. Their needs were still just as important on the day after lockdown as they were the day before.”

Nearly a third of young people in the UK who received mental health services and support prior to the pandemic are now unable to access support.[1] The crisis has compounded existing inequalities and spiked abuse.[2] And during this mental health “epidemic”[3] young people are battling feelings of isolation, anxiety about the world they’re inheriting and frustration about being left out of the discussion about their own recovery.[4]

Dan continues, “the reality is that the pressures on children’s and young people’s mental health are increasing significantly. We are seeing children and young people unable to understand or verbalise how or what they are feeling and what is expressed is anger, upset or frustration.”

Dan stresses that relationships are the key to east to west’s success, and it’s through their earned, trusted rapport with young people that they are able to make a difference, “we recognise that some wellbeing and mental health issues can be resolved relatively quickly… it may be a case of someone needing to offload to someone they trust, however for many of those we support, there is no quick fix and time and a commitment to being there to support is what is needed.”

In March, when lockdown happened, most mental health services were forced to quickly shift to online support. For young people this shift was not always easy; many had concerns about privacy at home and others faced gaps in their access to technology.[5] The Community Foundation for Surrey has been there to help east to west keep crucial relationships intact. By providing an initial emergency response grant, the charity did not have to furlough any staff and could continue to work alongside young people to keep that all important connection. When east to west found people struggled to engage through phone calls, they eventually moved online, learning and growing with the young people themselves about what works best.

Most recently, a grant of £50,000 has been awarded by the Foundation to a group of 8 Surrey charities – including east to west – to help deal with the surge in demand for children and young people’s mental health services following the Coronavirus Pandemic.

It is currently unknown what the long-term effects of lockdown and the pandemic will be on our young people. For Dan effective mental health support is a long-term commitment hinging on investing time and energy into developing trusting relationships with young people. In his words, “if I had one word of advice to those reading this… invest in the young people you’re supporting… it sounds simple, but it is so effective!

 

east to west winners - Youth Awards 2018/19
The east to west team

Our recent Children and Young People’s Mental Health Webinar brought together Surrey charities working to support our local young people with their mental health needs. Click here to find out what we heard!

Source

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/mental-health-support-young-people-coronavirus-a9611661.html

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/07/children-risk-health-visitors-count-cost-lockdown

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-youth-mental-health-pandemic-uk-a9614841.html

[4] https://www.charitytoday.co.uk/young-people-call-on-government-to-prioritise-mental-health-in-uks-coronavirus-recovery/

[5] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/mental-health-support-young-people-coronavirus-a9611661.html

Coming together to address Domestic Abuse in Surrey

3rd July 2020

“I hate to say it because it’s brought tragedy to so many, but the coronavirus has really lifted this old veil off of domestic abuse and has exposed it for what it is. It’s given people an opportunity to actually think about how awful it would be, because they’ve now experienced isolation.”

 

Charlotte Kneer is CEO of Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid, a refuge based in East Surrey, for women and children fleeing severe domestic abuse.

Charlotte felt “driven by force” to act when she heard about the lockdown restrictions in March. “I had just the biggest sense of connection to all the women that would be experiencing lockdown with their abusers.”

 

Hidden in Plain Sight

The coronavirus has devasted many communities, but Charlotte is glad to at least see much needed attention being paid to the issue of domestic abuse. “I think the very first step that we as a society and a community need is to stop believing that it is not our business to get involved. We need to make the private public because it is everyone’s business.”

In Surrey it is estimated there were 21,400 female victims of domestic abuse prior to the coronavirus crisis.[1] Frustratedly, Charlotte says “You know, the one thing I hear time and time again? Is that domestic abuse doesn’t happen in Surrey. And I can tell you that actually it does happen in Surrey – it happens across all socioeconomic groups, races, religions. There is no area of society that remains untouched by domestic abuse.”

Nationally, some estimate that the number of women killed doubled during lockdown.[2] The difference between a women surviving her abuse and being killed often rests in her ability to leave. Something that Charlotte states plainly, “I know that sounds awful, but that is the reality. This is what these women are fleeing from, the risk of murder.”

This has becoming increasingly difficult as the number of refuge bed spaces in England is 30% below what the Council of Europe recommends.[3]

According to Charlotte though, the county of Surrey is a “leading example” of a local authority that recognises the critical need of these safe refuge spaces for women. “I think that [when there is a needs assessment done] we will all find out that Surrey is providing what it should be providing and is a leading light in provision of refuge spaces.”

The New Refuge

Acting on the urgent calls from community groups, like Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid and Your Sanctuary, Surrey County Council, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and the Community Foundation for Surrey partnered to create a new building for survivors of domestic abuse.

Over £58,000 was awarded to the domestic abuse charity by the Community Foundation for Surrey. This funding came from the Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund Phase 2 grant-making, as well as from the Dora Fedoruk Memorial Fund and the Netherby Trust Fund, both managed by the Community Foundation. Extraordinarily, in the span of four weeks, a building provided by the Council has been fitted with all the benefits of home.

As Charlotte says, “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves really to get it open [for when lockdown ended] because I wanted to be open for when women may have their first opportunity to escape. Literally every friend and their dog has been helping out, getting this place up and running. I haven’t stopped working nights and weekends for the last six weeks really.”

They’ve been able to welcome eight families, with the scope of eventually growing to 20. The quick response by the Community Foundation for Surrey meant the families had all new soft furnishings and white goods. An absolutely vital detail according to Charlotte, “I stayed in a refuge years ago. My son was seven when we went, and I remember him being terrified of this big old building that we stayed in. He wouldn’t even go to the bedroom on his own. So I know that women need to arrive somewhere that feels homely and that makes them feel safe.”

There’s still much to be done. The capacity for the refuge means they must slowly accept new families, and within a minute of a space opening up it is filled. The weight of having to disappoint so many women is tough on Charlotte.

But she remains hopeful. She enjoys seeing what this new building means to the families living there.

“We’re still putting finishing touches to it, but we’ve had women and children come and they absolutely love it. It was important to make this place nice because I think it says to the women when they come in that you’re valued, that you’re worth it.”

Source

[1] https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/s43409/Item%207%20-%20Annex%205.pdf

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/15/domestic-abuse-killings-more-than-double-amid-covid-19-lockdown

[3] https://www.womensaid.org.uk/research-and-publications/the-domestic-abuse-report/

Emergency Response to lockdown

12th June 2020

When the early talks of a lockdown were underway, Pam Whittingham was already thinking about how to gather community volunteers. She called her local councillor, Cllr Jeremy Pursehouse, in Warlingham and set up a meeting in order to have a few people over to make a plan.

“He said, ‘I’ll bring a couple of people with me’ and twelve people turned up!” The meeting, which took place in her sitting room, formed the committee that now functions as the Coronavirus Aid in Chelsham, Farleigh, Warlingham (CACFW). Right then they came up with a plan to organise volunteers to deliver shopping and prescriptions to hundreds of residents in the community who would have to shield-in.

At the same time in Brockham a similar conversation was taking place. Members of Brockham Emergency Response Team (BERT), an organisation that came together in 2013 during severe floods, held an urgent meeting at the pub.

Craig Scott, a trustee at BERT says, “We knew that we needed a volunteer force, but we didn’t know what services to deliver yet. So that evening, one of the trustees designed a leaflet. Within 24-30 hours, we were leafleting thousands in the village and that has resulted in a volunteer force of about 188 people.”

It was only a few days on when it became clear to each organisation they were going to need to somehow get urgent supplies to residents.

The volunteers at BERT anticipated that at least a third of Brockham would require delivery services or foodbank support over the coming months. Similarly, CACFW anticipated needing to organise delivery and prescription delivery to 1000 vulnerable residents.

Reaching so many people this quickly meant both groups had to endure their growing pains whilst also providing community support. There was simply no time to waste.

Craig continues, “The first two weeks in lockdown were probably amongst the most intense two weeks of my life because we were getting huge numbers of requests for prescriptions, particularly. But we didn’t have the systems or procedures in place just yet. So we were doing ‘the doing’ as well as trying to set things up!”

The Community Foundation for Surrey awarded grants quickly to these organisations, ensuring they could manage through the intense spike in demand and juggle all the unknowns.

Twelve weeks on, both organisations are now working like “well-oiled machines” and they are observing how their community’s needs are shifting. Initially the issue was the scarcity of produce and medication, but now CACFW and BERT are seeing the effects of months of furloughed workers. Samantha Rider, Volunteer Fundraiser at BERT says, “We’ve got a lot of people losing their jobs.” Grant adds, “For every person dropping off [from food aid support], of which there aren’t many, there are still a number coming on. We’ve gone from 90 to 160 [supported households]. Looking at the next three to six months, I think that trend will continue to go up and up because there isn’t a solution over the next six months for financial hardship. You know, it’s only going to get worse for more people.”

The Community Foundation for Surrey is aware that the effects of this virus will be long lasting and far reaching. It is crucial that we stay vigilant in our support for community groups; organisations like CACFW and BERT have been important eyes and ears on the frontline. But as Samantha outlines, it’s imperative that we continue to support charities and community groups that go beyond the doorstep services of CACFW and BERT:

“I think one of the biggest challenges that we haven’t met is the terrible loneliness of the very elderly in our village. We’ve got people who are 90 and recently bereaved who are dealing with that. So we can get food to them, we can get prescriptions to them, but they’re locked in their houses without knowing when that’s going to end. With so little social contact. It’s tough.”

Even though the last few months have been some of the most challenging for these groups, the volunteers are still smiling; as Pam from CACFW declared, “I’ve really enjoyed meeting all these people, not just volunteers, but talking to the residents. It’s just been absolutely delightful. I just don’t know what I’m going to do at the end of it all. I’m going to be bereft!”

Facing new challenges of isolation

5th June 2020

How the lockdown and its on-going uncertainties will affect our mental health won’t be completely understood for some time, but it has been one of the most worrying indirect issues of the Coronavirus in the UK. Recognising this concern early on, the Community Foundation for Surrey quickly awarded £118,000 in emergency grants across mental health organisations in Surrey.

These organisations, such as Surrey Heath Age Concern (SHAC), are supporting elderly residents who are dealing with on-going anxiety from being in the high-risk category or suffering bereavement because of the loss of their spouse. And others, like Emerge Advocacy, are offering crucial emotional support to Surrey’s young people who are dealing with mental health issues without access to their usual coping resources. Each are now facing new the challenge of isolation.

Surrey Heath Age Concern’s befriending scheme and regular telephone calls to its service users means that since lockdown started Tracy Hiney, the Charity Manager, and her Befriending Coordinator, Angela, are making upwards of 50 check-in phone calls a day. For Joy Wright, the founder of Emerge Advocacy, it has meant a mass outreach strategy to every young person they’ve met in hospital over the last 6-months:

“We sent a little text just to say ‘hi, we’re just checking in and we’re offering extra support during lockdown, if you’d like a chat just let us know.’ And quite a few young people got back to us and said ‘Yes, please!’ That’s why I’ve been extra busy, because although we’ve not been going and getting new people [at the hospital] we’ve actually got back some people that we had previously finished with.”

What has held true in both Tracy and Joy’s outreach experience during almost 10 weeks of lockdown is that each person, regardless of age, needs a meaningful connection and the reassurance that someone cares during trying times.

Tracy has prioritised this type of connection at SHAC, “I mean, the Council do very well. They’re phoning [elderly] people once a week, but it’s ‘Ok, have you got enough food and everything you need?’ They need more than that. They need to talk about their family. They need to talk about what they’ve done in their life. They need to talk about their worries. That’s what we do.”

These worries, Tracy says, are things such as collecting their prescriptions, food parcels and fears of getting the virus. Some worry about being a burden to their loved ones, “sometimes they don’t want to tell their families [about their worries or needs] because they don’t want to worry their families, but they’ll talk to someone that’s a little bit distant. I’ve built a trust with them.”

Listening to fears and sadness is common right now for mental health professionals. Joy found Emerge Advocacy has been able to offer similar support to its young clients. A girl whose mother had passed away, recently spoke of how much sadness she was feeling. Despite encouragement from Emerge she wasn’t comfortable speaking with her dad about this sadness for fear of making him sad during an already difficult time.

Having a reliable and caring support service that exists outside the immediate family has been an essential comfort for many people in Surrey during this tense and raw period.

Joy says the Foundation’s grant has meant they were able to achieve their foremost priority of maintaining continuity in their services to help avoid any young people “spiralling” in crisis.

“We really are running at capacity at the moment in terms of the amount of support that we’re able to give. I even had a mum say thank you for supporting her daughter through this crazy time, [keeping up the conversations] have helped her to just feel a bit more normal about things.”

Joy says it was the “insightfulness” of the Foundation, in anticipating the need for mental health services and awarding grants quickly, that ensured that Emerge Advocacy could meet its increased demand.

“We’re just really grateful to the Community Foundation that they were so responsive and made the process so streamlined. They trusted us to know that we’re still going to do our best for young people, sure we’ve had to pivot but we’re still going to be doing what we’re set up to do in the midst of all of everything.”

For Tracy the grant has been a crucial stopgap that has helped them stay afloat. It has covered the short-term loss of income from closing The Rainbow Café in March. The café, which acts as a community meeting space for those 50 years or older, usually made just enough to cover salaries and the expenses of the befrienders. In the long-term Tracy knows she’s going to have to apply for additional funding. The staggered lifting of restrictions means all of her clients will be the last ones under lockdown and require assistance the longest.

But she will “persevere”, as she says; “they’ve been through their lives. They’ve done so much. And they’ve got to be treated with respect and kindness.”

Joy Wright, founder of Emerge Advocacy, with her team of youth workers prior to lockdown
Carol Franssen, Surrey Heath Age Concern befriender

“Brilliant grant” enables Manna Food Bank to support vulnerable residents in Spelthorne

19th May 2020

Manna

Grants from our Coronavirus Response Fund have been supporting inspiring local initiatives who are getting food to our most vulnerable, supporting our most isolated elderly residents, and adapting other vital services to ensure people with the highest needs continue receiving the help they require. There has been a huge rise in the demand for services such as food banks. Manna Food Bank is no exception. 

The volunteers and trustees of Manna, the independent food bank for Spelthorne, were delighted to receive a grant of £5,000 from the Coronavirus Response Fund being administered by the Community Foundation for Surrey. The money has been spent on purchasing fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, eggs and milk which supplement the tins and packets of dry food in a food parcel at this time of need.

The Chairman of the Manna Trustees, Elizabeth Wood-Dow OBE, welcomed the donation from the Community Foundation for Surrey, as a huge help at this time.

“From the beginning of lockdown, we were having difficulty securing fresh products, but this brilliant grant enabled us to negotiate with wholesale suppliers who would deliver, saving us so much time and money,” said Mrs Wood-Dow.

“Our clients have of course benefited too, and they thank our volunteers every time we deliver. So we would all like to thank the Community Foundation, who have stepped in to help us very promptly and swiftly.”

Manna is different from other food banks, as it does not cook or serve lunches, or deliver ready-cooked meals to residents. Its volunteers provide parcels for those in urgent or immediate need, before other statutory services can step in. Volunteers can tailor parcels for dietary needs such as vegetarian, diabetes, gluten-free and Halal, and parcels are based on living and cooking facilities, and on the needs of homeless people.

Manna

Manna was established in 2012, and was opened by the Bishop of Kensington, though it is operated entirely by volunteers and is independent of the Church of England. It takes referrals from statutory and voluntary organisations and individuals, e.g. doctors, social services, Councils and others, and puts together parcels of food and other products designed to help families.

Donations are usually collected by local churches, but during the pandemic, with churches closed, the volunteers have approached local shops to be temporary drop off points for donations – this has proved a great success. Volunteers then collect the donations and sell-by dates are checked at HQ. Everything is then sorted into food parcels for delivery to homes. Volunteers are out at least three times a week to cope with demand during the current pandemic.

To find out more about Manna Food Bank and their services, visit their website here.

Foodwise (TLC) Limited

Foodwise

Grants have been awarded to the many inspiring local initiatives who are getting food to our most vulnerable, supporting our most isolated elderly residents, and adapting other vital services to ensure people with the highest needs continue receiving the help they require.

Guildford Philanthropy, the Community Foundation’s local area fund, has been working with Foodwise (TLC) Limited, a charity providing cooked meals to disadvantaged families, older and isolated people across Guildford and Woking.

Foodwise has stopped its normal activities of teaching people to improve their cooking skills to better feed themselves and their families, and has deployed existing and newly recruited Food Coaches to prepare and cook nutritional hot meals that can be delivered to families and individuals referred to them free of charge.

Foodwise is working with Stoke Community Support and three local schools to operate kitchens at Emmanuel Church and Burpham Church. Over the past few weeks the charity has seen such a rise in demand for their services, that they are now delivering meals to more than 200 families a week.

The meals are delivered to those most vulnerable in the community including families with children on free school meals, young carers, a women’s refuge. A £5,000 grant was recently awarded from the Coronavirus Response Fund to support their work.

Foodwise (TLC) Credit - Surrey Live

Chair of Foodwise, Martin Vodden says:

“Foodwise has already gratefully deployed the funding provided by the Foundation through investment in large Cool Boxes for deliveries, ingredient purchases for our food production and commercial freezers for storing our frozen food prior to delivery. This has made a huge difference, as without this essential investment, we could not deliver some 1,600 meals each week. This is a lifeline to some vulnerable families, who have been impacted significantly by this pandemic.”

The response fund has to date reached over £1.2 million in monies raised, and while this has surpassed a significant milestone, the increase in demand for charities services highlights that there is much more to be done at this critical time.

Laura Thurlow, Chief Executive of the Community Foundation for Surrey says:

“Together, with the support of local donors, businesses and monies from the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal, we are able to support groups like Foodwise that are doing fantastic work in addressing and responding to the many urgent and growing needs found within our communities at this time. We urge anyone looking to donate to get in touch with us.”

To find out more about Foodwise (TLC) Limited and their services, visit their website here.

Oakleaf Enterprise reaches more vulnerable local people through remote services

Oakleaf

Grants from our Coronavirus Response Fund have been supporting inspiring local initiatives who are getting food to our most vulnerable, supporting our most isolated elderly residents, and adapting other vital services to ensure people with the highest needs continue receiving the help they require. 

Oakleaf Enterprise has been helping people in Surrey to manage their mental ill-health since 1995. The charity supports adults of working age, at any point in their mental health crisis or recovery, to develop the skills, confidence and training needed to return to the workplace.

Oakleaf HQ is also one of Surrey’s Safe Havens. A Safe Haven is an alternative to A&E, providing out of hours help to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. During the coronavirus lockdown, Oakleaf’s HQ Safe Haven has remained open for the community.

Oakleaf - Volunteer

When lockdown happened in March, Oakleaf had to completely and quickly reassess how to continue supporting hundreds of their regular clients. At Oakleaf opportunities for real social connection are key, many of their services depend on activities that promote in-person social connection amongst clients – something that social distancing would suddenly prohibit.

The answer meant that, for the first time ever, Oakleaf had to shift to completely remote services.

Jen Clay, the charity’s Fundraising and Partnerships Manager says: “We have a large number of individuals who don’t live with friends or family and live alone, and therefore are quite isolated. The only time they left their house was to come to Oakleaf and now that’s been taken away. So that’s where us providing remote support has become just so essential.”

The emergency £5,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Surrey from their Coronavirus Response Fund, meant that the charity could quickly move its support services online and offer remote counselling to its now even more isolated clients. Using technology such as Zoom, meant they could continue their important check-ins and even the regular group activities that so many in Surrey have come to rely on.

Jen says the silver-lining of this fast turnaround of remote services is they’re seeing a new mix of people in their groups. Where some clients found travel to Oakleaf a barrier and others had scheduling conflicts, now more people have more access to different activities.

“We have this fantastic mixing around of people trying new things and being involved in different activities each week. And it’s been giving people new opportunities to meet others who they never would have crossed paths with before!” says Jen.

The success of this remote shift has meant that when lockdown ends, Oakleaf has a new way to reach more vulnerable people. When it is again safe, Oakleaf plans to still advocate for the type of connection only in-person interactions can provide but knowing that they have a new tool in their belt to support Surrey residents has been an unexpected win during a difficult time.

To find out more about Oakleaf Enterprise and their services, visit their website here.

Home-Start – providing hope to local families

Home start

Home-Start is a network of trained volunteers and expert supporters working together, all over the UK, to help families with young children through challenging times. These families can often face issues such as post-natal depression, physical health problems, bereavement and isolation. Home-Start ordinarily provides training home-visiting volunteers to spend two hours a week with a family, supporting them in what they need.

During the pandemic and lockdown these families were hit especially hard; many expressed their worry about being able to feed their children or didn’t know how to manage whilst keeping them indoors all day.

In Surrey, Home-Start Runnymede and Woking and Home-Start Spelthorne were two of the organisations that received funding so they could continue to help families tackle these issues. The grants ensured that they could operate remotely, keep volunteers and families connected and provide essential supplies to families with young children.

Prior to the coronavirus, Home-Start Runnymede and Woking supported 130 families. This meant that their 45 volunteers, each of whom are carefully matched with a family, would spend a few hours a week helping them with the day-to-day. These tasks can be as hectic as getting small children to medical appointments, as challenging as emotional support or as simple as enabling a few moments of peace for parents.

Since lockdown their rate of new referrals has been disconcertingly low.

Home-Start Runnymede and Woking is anticipating a “huge influx” of referrals once we are able to come out of lockdown. There will be an intense period of catching up after months of isolation.

Sarah Beasley, Scheme Manager says, “Once children are back in school and nursery, and once health visitors are having more contact with families, I think we’ll see a lot of fallout from the lockdown. A lot of mental health issues and the effects of real abject poverty. It’ll be all the stuff that would normally come through that just hasn’t [because of lockdown], but also the added issues from lockdown itself will then feed through.”

The lockdown itself has provided its own stress. A young mum from Spelthorne says, “Having three children at home in lockdown, with no money has been quite hard. My husband is a key worker, so he’s been sent away to work. Without Hilary [Home-Start volunteer] and Home-Start phoning it would have been really difficult.”

Grants from our Coronavirus Response Fund have ensured that these crucial services didn’t get interrupted, but they also ensured that young children, who now had to spend more time at home and more time inside, had resources to thrive.

With their grant Home-Start Runnymede and Woking put together resource packs to deliver to families. These included colouring pencils, books and games. Sarah continues, “We’ve had really, really good feedback from the stuff that we have been taking around for families. Parents saying how the children have absolutely loved the games and the resources that we’ve provided. And comments that the parents themselves have finally had five minutes of peace to just get on with something in the house.”

Families with particular pressures such as poor mental health, illness and low wages are the ones who are especially struggling during this crisis. It is important that we continue to grow The Coronavirus Response Fund so we can ensure that they have the resources they need when the influx of referrals hits in the coming months.